Apart from increasing the overall market share for the combined Zee-Sony entity, the merger between the two media giants also opens up the regional markets, especially the entertainment-hungry southern languages, for Sony Pictures Networks India’s (SPNI) predominantly Hindi network.
“As a combined entity, this becomes India’s largest media network with close to 27-28 per cent market share compared to Star India at 24 per cent,” said Abneesh Roy, executive director, Edelweiss Securities.
Zee’s 25 channels for nine regional languages means that the combined entity will take on rival Star India, the other national player with a regional presence, to create a new audience base for itself and reduce dependence on Hindi.
In the non-Hindi markets, Zee’s bouquet of general entertainment and movie channels includes the four south Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam as well as Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and Odiya – most of them built organically.
According to its annual report for FY2021, the entertainment channels rank number 1 in Kannada, number 2 in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana and number 3 in Tamil. Sony’s only non-Hindi presence, meanwhile, is in Marathi.
“The network becomes a lot stronger. It’s a win-win for both Sony and Zee. The combined entity will have dominance in many languages and genres. The merger brings a lot of distribution and advertising heft to the table, which will be a challenge for competitors,” said Roy.
Rival Star India, on the other hand, is also present in the four southern languages, apart from Marathi, Bengali and Hindi across more than 30 general entertainment and movie channels. Its Star Vijay (Tamil), Asianet (Malayalam) and Star Maa (Telugu) channels, however, were acquisitions of local channels. “Star continues to be a formidable player. It is obviously a very good number two now,” said Roy.
Regional play in the southern market assumes special significance because of the presence of four thriving film industries in the region and a culture of eyeball-grabbing long-running soap-operas on television. This is also the reason why the five southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka are a big draw for advertisers – the major revenue driver for television channels.
However, while the merger gives the combined Sony-Zee entity a strong regional presence, it will still have to battle with long-standing behemoths like Sun TV Network, especially in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh/Telangana. The southern network, which has 32 channels across Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi and Bengali, reported almost Rs 400 crore quarterly profit in the July-September quarter of 2021.
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